Stephanie Firestone, AARP, United States
Catherine McGuigan, Age-friendly Ireland, United Kingdom
Robert Wong, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare Council Limited, China
During the Coronavirus pandemic, many countries witnessed a vastly disproportionate number of virus-related fatalities in long-term-care facilities. Yet, the alternative, housing in the community, is often not suitable for people who want to age in their homes and communities—a share that research shows has rapidly increased in a number of developed countries.
In many places, built environments are designed for the average height male between the ages of 20-40, forcing everyone else to adapt, and in many cases these built environments are DIS-abling. There is a need for a variety of housing options and a public realm that works across the lifespan, as well as in many places new policies and programs that provide assistance to people who are poor, to retrofit their homes.
Further magnifying inequities is the fact that in the United States and some other countries, discrimination by age, race and ethnicity are embedded in our built environment and the systems and sectors that create it. The result is that people—particularly in low-income communities and communities of color, disproportionately struggle to attain basic health, safety and wellbeing. These great disparities in social determinants of health have also been made far more apparent during the pandemic.
To make all aspects of the built environment enabling for people of all ages and abilities, the onus is often on professionals and lay leaders working to advance age-friendly communities—to advocate with those in their communities who make decisions regarding the physical environment. In most cities these are professionals in the fields of policymaking including planning and zoning, architectu43 and design, community and private sector development, real estate and more. Because age-friendliness is not yet a part of the educational curriculum in these professions, the onus is on age-friendly community advocates to educate them as a critical part of this advocacy work.
The presenters in this session have undertaken efforts to engage built environment professionals in a variety of ways, to incorporate an aging lens in their ongoing work. This session will review some of the programming that they have done in this space and share key insights from working with built environment professionals to infuse their work with this perspective. Participants will gain an understanding of what has worked well and not as well, the different considerations that factor into built environment professionals making this shift, and key insights from built environment professions that can also inform age-friendly community work.
Presenter #1, Catherine McGuigan
The Age Friendly Ireland Programme developed a Housing & Public Realm Training Module and delivered it to over 1600 practitioners whose actions and decisions effect the lives of older people in the context of housing, planning & the built environment (e.g., architects, engineers, planners, elected representatives, policy writers and many more).
Age friendly practices covered include public seating, toilets, parking, pedestrian crossings, parks and green areas, location of bins and security—such as Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). The course equips interested parties across public, private and the civil service as well as the NGO sector and academia, with knowledge and skills to maximise the age friendliness of their environment, and to ensure effective planning for older people is adequately considered and addressed in housing policy formulation and implementation.
This presentation will share aspects of this module, including how the initiative catalyzed:
- increased awareness about the need for optimal responses over the coming years
- deeper understanding of the how regulations and guidance on housing and the built environment affect older people (and what older people say matters most to them)
- understanding of the current legislative and financial requirements for accessible housing and building design
- appreciation of Universal Design and Lifetime housing principles
Age Friendly Ireland will also share key insights derived through this work with the built environment sector.
Presenter #2, Robert Wong
The presentation will be based on the new initiative in the NGOs in Hong Kong to design an age-friendly and inclusive community in the post-pandemic era. Architects, interior designers, planners, and other professionals are starting to think thoroughly about the design of the physical environment for older persons. The cross-professionals interaction between social services colleagues and design professions using the participatory design is indeed an effective way to build up a user-centred approach with an age-friendly lens on the future design. In the building professions, there would be more designers’ involvement in the community centre activities to train and educate the older person on creating a tidy and minimalist living environment in the post-pandemic era.
Presenter #3 Stephanie Firestone
In December 2019, AARP convened twenty built environment sector leaders from the US and the UK, generating a set of principles to guide the creation of enabling, equitable and multigenerational housing and communities. AARP created the Equity by Design global dialogue series to further explore design, policy and development of environments that enable every person to thrive and to catalyze action among influencers in the field.
We invited experts with different perspectives from around the world, to solutions-oriented dialogues moderated by a visionary leader in the senior living space, Dr. Bill Thomas. We also discussed using policy, planning, design and development of built environments as a key tool for social justice, by prioritizing disproportionately impacted communities as a vehicle for properly addressing the needs of disadvantaged residents and alleviating disparities. We engaged thousands of professionals and gained a variety of global insights both from our dialogue experts and from our professional participants, and this presentation will share key insights from the series. We will also share innovative global examples of how practitioners in the field are advancing these principles.